LITTLE FALLS, Minn. – Jurors will settle in Monday morning to get their first glimpse of what’s to come in the Byron Smith murder trial.
Attorneys are scheduled to give their opening statements beginning at 9 a.m. in a Morrison County courtroom.
Smith, 65, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two teens who broke into his house on Thanksgiving day, 2012.
While Minnesota law allows a person to take a life to prevent a felony in his or her home, jurors will have to decide whether Smith acted as a reasonable person would have when he killed 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady as they descended his basement stairs about 10 minutes apart.
Defense attorneys claim Smith, a former U.S. State Department employee, acted in defense of himself and his home, and that he was terrified after several prior break-ins at his home on the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Burglars had brazenly kicked in a back door and stolen firearms. When he heard his window breaking that Thanksgiving, defense attorneys contend, he didn’t know how many intruders there were and whether they were armed.
Prosecutors claim Smith crossed a line into murder when he continued shooting to kill the unarmed teens after they had each become injured and no longer posed a threat. They said Smith was waiting in ambush with loaded weapons and an audio recorder running. The recording shows he uttered “you’re dead” after shooting Brady three times and called Kifer “bitch” before dragging her, already wounded, into his workshop and then firing a final shot beneath her chin and into her cranium, prosecutors have said.
The trial will focus on Smith’s state of mind during the shootings. Fourteen jurors will hear the case, including two alternates. If convicted of first-degree murder, Smith faces life in prison.